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German government tightens rules for sensitive public IT contracts

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government has tightened tender rules for sensitive public IT contracts in the wake of reports about mass surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Friday.

Last year former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed U.S. technology companies' close cooperation with national intelligence agencies by leaking documents on the NSA's access to the accounts of tens of thousands of net companies' users.

German Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said suspect firms would be banned from taking on some public contracts in Germany if they had to hand over confidential data to foreign intelligence or security services.

Before being awarded a contract, foreign tenderers now have to declare whether they have a legal or contractual requirement to pass information on to third parties that would affect data in the project concerned, Dimroth said.

If it turns out at a later point that firms do have such an agreement, German authorities can make use of a special right of termination. The German side does not have to provide concrete evidence that data has actually been passed on in that case - it is up to the firm concerned to prove the opposite.

The rules, which have been in force since April but do not retroactively affect older contracts, apply if the sensitivity of data and the need to protect it "reaches a certain threshold", Dimroth said.

He said all contracts the government procurement office hands out would be affected but added he did not know how many contracts ministries awarded outside of this central office.

Procurement by federal states is not affected but the government hoped that these rules would become an example, Dimroth said.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is due to travel to Washington for three days next week along with representatives from the government and IT company employees for routine talks about security issues.

(Reporting by Thorsten Severin and Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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